An emotional Dries Mertens admits it was ‘tough to pull that shirt on’ after Napoli players wore ‘Maradona 10’ top before Europa League victory on Thursday… with Belgian saying ‘my name was used in the same sentence as his – and that’s not right’
- Napoli paid tribute to the late Diego Maradona before their game on Thursday
- The whole squad wore ‘Maradona 10’ shirts before their win against Rijeka
- The face of the late Argentine was shown on the big screen throughout the game
- Maradona, who led Napoli to two Serie A titles, died on Wednesday aged 60
- Dries Mertens said his name does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Maradona’s
Napoli star Dries Mertens conceded it was ‘tough to pull on’ the Maradona 10 shirt which the entire side wore before their Europa League win against Rijeka on Thursday night.
Footballing great Maradona, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 60, was revered in Naples after a seven-year stay from 1984-1991 where he led the side to two Serie A titles and a UEFA Cup.
Last night, outside the stadium which is set to be renamed the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, thousands of fans laid flowers and sang the Argentine’s name – and Mertens was similarly emotional when speaking after Napoli’s 2-0 win.
The whole Napoli squad came out before the match wearing ‘Maradona 10’ shirts in tribute
Napoli’s starting XI hold up a Maradona 10 shirt before kick-off to honour the Argentine
Dries Mertens was emotional when speaking about the Argentine great after his side’s victory
‘It was an awful moment for me, so I can only imagine how those who lived through his time at Napoli must have felt,’ Mertens told Sky Sport Italia.
‘He made such a big impact on this city and for everyone in the south of Italy. I want to be positive, and focus on my memories of a smiling man who loved football.’
All the Napoli squad wore a ‘Maradona 10’ shirt before kick-off and Maradona’s face was shown on the big screen throughout the entire match.
Belgian forward Mertens, who has been at Napoli since 2013, often exchanged messages with Maradona on Instagram and on the platform apologised in a post in tribute to the late Argentine.
Mertens recently went ahead of Maradona in Napoli’s goalscoring stakes and is now the all-time No 1 for the club.
Every Napoli player wore the No 10 shirt with Maradona on the back before kick-off
Scarves, photos and messages have also been left on the railings outside the ground
‘I apologised to him, because my name was used in the same sentence as his and that’s not right,’ Mertens said.
‘He was and always will be unique.’
‘It was tough to pull that shirt on. In some ways, it was always a dream, but not like this.’
Napoli’s president Aurelio de Laurentiis confirmed the club are considering re-naming their stadium after Maradona.
Maradona’s image remained on the screens throughout the game as part of another tribute
Maradona led Napoli to two league titles between 1984 and 1991 as well as the UEFA Cup
‘We can consider the idea of calling our stadium San Paolo-Diego Armando Maradona,’ he told told French sports channel RMC Sport.
The move was backed by Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris who said on Twitter: ‘We will name the Stadio San Paolo in honour of Diego Armando Maradona!’ the official stated on his official Twitter account on Wednesday.
On the night, goals from Matteo Politano and Hirving Lozano secured a comfortable win for the Italians against their Croatian opponents, putting them top of Group F.
Thousands of fans gathered outside the ground to pay their respects to the Argentine
Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne laid a bouquet of flowers alongside supporters’ tributes